Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Linky, Linky, Linky...Can't You See?

Hi all, busy bee here in sales land...so just a few random links that have popped onto my radar screen today.

First, Jason Falls gives his perspective on the 10th Anniversary of the Cluetrain Manifesto. Jason has some very perceptive comments. Here is a snippet:
Before I respond to the specific questions, though, a raw perspective:

We’re nowhere. Social media and true consumer-centric brand behavior is prevalent in the technology bubble and few other places. While adoption has been steady and progress has been made, the premise of the book hasn’t exactly “gone viral.” Businesses in general still think bottom line and “what’s in it for me,” first. Advertising still sucks, is loud and intrusive. And consumers still have little reason to trust brands, companies and even folks like me – marketers trying to connect them with products and services that fit their needs.

I’m still a used car salesman to a lot of people. Companies are still monolithic, smoke and mirrors, money hoards with automated phone systems and customer service that has nothing to do with the customer and scantly qualifies as service.

For a market-changing, environmental-shift of a document The Cluetrain was, either it actually wasn’t or the majority of American businesses and consumers are just plain dumb.

To me, The Cluetrain is logical. Be nice. Expect it in return. Why can’t we get this, people?

That said, some people are getting it. More every day. It’s a fight worth fighting. We’re trying to teach business and industry that they should do right because it’s the right thing to do. And someday, we’ll win. When we do, we all will.

For those of you who don't know about the Cluetrain, get all the money you have hidden under the mattress, head down to Union Station and hand it out to passersby. Then go home, read up and form an opinion one way or the other.

Ex-colleague, Larissa Fair, pours a little cold water on the Twitter parade with a subtly titled post, "Who Cares About Twitter?"

Chris Brogan write yet another post with 17,000 comments. This time he vents about a PR idiot blind emailing a press release. Hilarity ensues.

Dennis McDonald goes dsystopian and foresees Facebook fascism as those crazy kids only know how to live while connected.

And finally, the reason why social media has a cap in terms of the number of people who will embrace it. People are risk adverse and are afraid of looking like asses...which is something the Internet was seemingly designed to do...

Monday, April 28, 2008

What Does A Community Manager Do?

Happy Monday Morning! There is a great post by Chris Brogan about the characteristics, requirements and expectations of a community manger. Please read it immediately to get a sense of what a successful social community manager both does and how it define and measure success.

Here is a flavor:

Measurements

I’d measure my community manager on the following:

  • Responsiveness to communications (blog comments, emails, twitter messages and forum threads) less than 24 hours max.
  • Number of QUALITY blog posts read and shared via Google Reader.
  • Number of meaningful comments (more than a few words, on topic, pertinent to the space) on appropriate blogs, videos, and other media per month.
  • Overall quality of her Twitter stream ( maybe a 60/30/10 mix of industry-related / personal @ comments / and off-topic).
  • Engagement on our blog/community/network. (Number of subscribers, number of comments, number of links out to other blogs from our community site).
  • Number of quality blog posts and linking posts (probably a 40/60 split between original and linked, though some would argue for 30/70).
  • Eventually, number of links from other sites to our blogs and media.

Success of the Project

I’d feel our community manager was a success if she accomplished the following through her efforts:

  • Empower the listening ability of our organization to our community’s needs and desires.
  • Build an awareness of our organization through non-marketing efforts, measured by favorable or at least non-negative mentions on other blogs, forums, and in Twitter.
  • Deliver a blog and/or media platform that’s useful to the community at large, and that grows in number of subscribers as well as engaged commenters.

Overall, I believe these efforts would be measured by an increase in attendance at our face-to-face and virtual events, an increase in subscriptions to our newsletter, and a larger blog commenting community. This would be a win to our organization, and would thus be worth the expense of another salaried employee.

Chris has outlined a strong, ROI focused definition of what a company should look for in an internal employee. Read the comments section to learn about how people are objecting- mostly about the issue of measurement.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Marvin Gaye Sings the National Anthem

OK, now for something completely different. I just found this video by clicking on Todd Mintz's Twitter page (thanks for the follow Todd) then clicking on a link to his blog.

This is the most spectacular version of the National Anthem I've ever heard. If you are a traditionalist you might not like this, but give it a shot. My brain kept trying to make Marvin sign the regular version, but he is so awesome I gave up, like the audience, and totally bought into it.

Got Schwerpunkt?

This morning as I was dozing between snooze buttons, the thought came to me that marketing executives looking at social media for the first, or thirtieth, time ought keep the principle of schwerpunkt foremost in their minds. What is schwerpunkt you ask?

Schwerpunkt is a term of art from the military meaning "focal point" or "main effort" or "center of gravity." Clausewitz wrote about schwerpunkt in his 1832 best-seller On War. In the military sense, it means maximum effort and force at the enemy's weakest spot. It also means a focus on the important task, rather than any subordinate tasks. See this example from William Wakes' blog:

From Chris Crawford on Game Design:

"But there's one word, a German word, that we haven't yet stolen that should be high on our list of targets: schwerpunkt. It means 'focal point' or 'concentration of effort point' or 'central point of attack.' It's a beautiful word because it expresses an idea that we just don't have in English: the notion that, in any effort, you may have many necessary tasks, but there is one central task that must take first place in your considerations."

Crawford gives an example of the army: the cook is important, but the soldier (and fighting) is the shwerpunkt. In games, he says, interactivity is the schwerpunkt. It leads me to ask, what is the schwerpunkt for what I'm doing?

In public relations, understanding is the schwerpunkt. Tasks like press releases, Twitters, media tours, websites, blogs, pitches, case studies, webinars and speeches are all potentially part of a successful PR campaign, but the main focus is communicating ideas is such a way so that they are understood. In order to do so, you must first carefully study your audiences, your own company, your marketplace in order to determine where, in fact, the schwerpunkt, or main focus, ought to be. Listening, as well as talking.

Agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yahoo Profits Up or Not?

Based on the stories I'm reading there is a little confusion about whether Yahoo's profits were up or not.

The Wall Street Journal says yes: "Yahoo Profit Lifted By Alibaba Gain"

MarketWatch say no, they were artificially grown by IPO and takes the China angle: "Yahoo's earnings boosted by China holdings"

TheStreet says hell, yes: "Yahoo!: How Do You Like Us Now?"

All in all it's a bit confusing- a result, I'd guess, of armies of Microsoft and Yahoo flacks arguing opposite points as Yahoo tries to maneuver itself into a higher valuation.

Content Remains The King

People like relearning old lessons again and again, it seems. The phrase "content is king" has been bandied about for many years now, but some people still get confused when a new medium of communication comes along.

What you say is the most important thing in communications. Exciting and powerful media like social networks only work when the content is exciting and powerful. No one will follow your Twitter posts if you aren't interesting, compelling and engaging. Marc Hausman talks about the "entertaining of PR" and he's right. Public relations professionals will only be successful if they develop and distribute valuable and, yes, entertaining content.

The point of this post is remind anyone thinking about integrating a social media component into their communications strategy that what you say is the critical ingredient to a successful campaign. The fundamentals of good PR remain in place. When building and engaging social networks, it is very important to invest in those relationships by bringing valuable content to the discussion. Merely "being present" is not enough.

Nick O'Neil has a good post about Twitter etiquette which, I think, backs this up. Following people on Twitter just so you can notify them when your press release went out is missing the point. Spending the time to engage with people in an interesting, compelling and entertaining way will grow the credibility you are seeking and will build a valuable communications channel.

Thoughts?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Some Weekend Links

My birthday is on Monday so I have a fun filled weekend ahead of me. Drinks tonight with friends at Cantina Marina (stop by and say hi if you are in the area), dinner tomorrow at my favorite steak restaurant, Ray's the Steaks, and then a wee road trip up to Baltimore for brunch with old friends and the Yankees-Orioles game.

However, before I head out and drink a cold beer in the gorgeous hot sun, let me share some links I found interesting today...

Google isn't dead yet! Profits way up!

Dennis McDonald continues to be a sane voice of reason in the world of social media. His analysis of Dennis Howlett's post on the 'Poverty of Enterprise 2.0' is excellent.

ReadWriteWeb sums up the etiquette and best practices around "Twitpitching"

And MediaBistro has an interesting look at the spin and PR strategy around the Papal visit.

Finally, if you're a depressed Nats fan like me, please visit DC Optimist's blog and get a healthy dose of 'Timism. Today he breaks down how the Wizards will destroy the Cavs this week.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Fear Industry?

I haven't spent as much time reviewing the blogs over at FCW or the other 1105 government IT publications. Between all the other verticals I try to keep an eye on (software, wireless, satellite, security, networking, telecom) and well as keeping up to speed on the fast moving changes in my own industry (PR), the goings on the government IT and contracting market sometimes slip off my radar.

But an issue that was gurgling to the surface a couple of months ago seems to be gaining speed, how the regulations and red tape around the contracting process are going to choke off the government's ability to contract beneficially with the private sector. Check out this blog post from Steve Kelman at Federal Computer Week to get a flavor.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Tipping Point is Gone

There has been a lot of talk about how social media has reached the tipping point and has been accepted as a valid method to market by the so called "early majority." Certainly, I've noticed in my business development discussions that senior marketers have gone from at best ignoring and at worst denigrating social media as a valuable arrow in the marketing quiver to almost demanding that it be included in any PR strategy developed. All in a few months and sometimes the same people!

It's roughly the same pattern I experienced back in the 1990's around the adoption by business of the web itself. First, ignoring, then mockery, then a mad scramble to "get something up!" There were a lot of crap websites developed and a lot of scam "online agencies" that took advantage. Then, as now, early majority type marketers needed to stop, take a breath and think through the purpose of this new medium, how best to use it and when.

Joining the conversation of an active, ongoing community of interest is sometimes a delicate operation, especially for a corporate brand. The potential for mistakes and blowback is there. It's key to work with someone or some PR agency that knows the pitfalls and can be an experienced guide. The fundamentals of PR haven't changed at all: know your audience, figure out the best (respectful and credible) way to communicate and give them compelling, valuable content. Just because your new social media expert follows 20,000 twitters doesn't mean they might not destroy your corporate brand by trampling over the sensibilities of your employee, partner, customer and prospect stakeholders.

EDIT: based on feedback from Mr. Now is Gone (who's a good friend from our college days at AU), let me clarify-- a social media expert with 20,000 Twitter followers is real, undoubted expert. Followers are the key. Someone who is following 20,000 but has few following him is probably a newbie blowhard. If you like newbie blowhards and think they will do wonderful things for your business, have at it. Look at roughly 50-50 mix on Geoff's twitter profile- a nice, large mix of people he follows and people that follow him.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Trade Shows, Part 1 (CTIA)

Well, I've been on the road for the past couple of weeks. I traveled to Las Vegas for the CTIA Wireless trade show then to San Fransisco for the RSA security show. Both shows demonstrated the power and innovation that still drives the larger technology world today. I'd like to recap both shows in two posts.

First, the CTIA show in Las Vegas last week was compelling. There is a building transformation in the wireless from the current 3G level of broadband, features and applications to a newer "4G" model. There is still some uncertainty about which technology platform will power this new generation of wireless businesses: WiMax or cellular or some un-invented technology.

Needless to say, there will be much fighting and scrambling over the next five or more years between the big carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint) as well as other technology players (Microsoft, Google, etc). All these shifting parts made for very interesting conversations...

...and it also made for an enormous trade show. The CTIA filled up two whole halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

I'll post some pictures when I get back home...